Resistance on Aisle Three? Exploring the Big Curriculum of Consumption and the (Im)Possibility of Resistance in John Updike's "A&P"

Jennie Stearns, Jennifer Sandlin, Jake Burdick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this article, we examine John Updike's short story "A&P" and its depiction of the grocery store as a curricular space re/presenting consumption and resistance to it. We position Updike's fictional A&P as a space where the "big curriculum" (Schubert, 2006a) of consumption is enacted in everyday life and explore both how the curriculum of consumption works and how resistance to consumerism might operate. We argue that this story provides insight into how consumption works as educational practice-one that teaches us how to be consumers, how to operate within consumer capitalism, and how to accept consumerism as natural-and also raises more specific questions about consumptive resistance by pointing toward the ways in which our particular positions within cultural narratives determine our individual perceptions of consumption-focused counterhegemonic action. Through an analysis of the fictional A&P in Updike's story, we examine how physical spaces of consumption such as grocery stores embody particular consumer capitalist ideologies and how shoppers are socialized into behaving in particular ways in such stores. We also address the issue of consumer resistance by focusing on how audiences interpret such consumptive resistance, rather than focusing solely on those resisting. These audiences include the story's protagonist, Sammy, and by extension us, both as readers of Updike's story and as viewers of various sites and acts of consumer resistance in current consumer culture. Our examination shifts the focus from the usual object of analysis-those resisting-to the audiences who, like ourselves, interpret that resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-415
Number of pages22
JournalCurriculum Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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